Tarp incident pushes Sampras match to today Top seed falls behind 2-0 in sets vs. Krajicek

July 04, 1996|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England -- This bizarre tournament known as Wimbledon continued on its odd course yesterday with No. 1 seed Pete Sampras seemingly being saved from elimination when a groundskeeper slipped and was run over by the tarp.

Play had just been suspended for the third time because of rain, when the 19-man crew grabbed the ends of the two-ton tarp and began dragging it across the grass. About halfway to the other side, Mark Willaby slipped, fell and hit his head on a metal clip on the tarp.

The crew continued to drag the cover, fully expecting their fallen friend to scramble back to his place.

But there was no scrambling under the cover and the crew had to pull the cover back to find him. A stretcher was wheeled in and Willaby, who was conscious, was taken to the hospital.

During all that, rain continued to fall, making the exposed grass too wet for play before nightfall, giving Sampras a reprieve until -- this afternoon, when play will resume with Sampras down 5-7, 6-7 (7-3), 1-1 to Richard Krajicek. The No. 1 seed had seven break-point opportunities in the first two sets but could not cash any.

No. 4 seed Goran Ivanisevic was also struggling in his match with Australian Jason Stoltenberg. When play was finally called for darkness, Ivanisevic had just warded off a match point and won a tiebreaker to stay in the match at 3-6, 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-3).

Going into yesterday's quarterfinals, only three seeds remained in the men's draw, the fewest number ever to make it this far.

With two of those seeds in trouble and No. 13 Todd Martin facing an uncertain future against new British tennis darling Tim Henman on Centre Court at 11 a.m. this morning, and with the assurance that an unseeded player will advance from the MaliVai Washington-Alexander Radulescu match, Wimbledon faces the real possibility of another historic moment. Never in Wimbledon's open era have as many as two unseeded men advanced to the semifinals -- let alone four.

Shared day

Today is supposed to be ladies semifinal day here, with the women being the star attraction. But Steffi Graf, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Kimiko Date and Meredith McGrath will have to wait to take their turns on Centre Court.

Henman and Martin will start the day, and depending on the weather, could be the only match of the day. If so, the women's semifinalists will play tomorrow.

But if all goes as scheduled, Sanchez Vicario and McGrath will play the second match on Centre with Graf and Date closing out the day.

Stats and facts

Though there have been 25 unseeded women's semifinalists at Wimbledon, McGrath would be the first of their number since Billie Jean King in 1963 to reach the final. . . . In this "Why not?" spirit of Wimbledon, here's a little something else to keep in mind -- no unseeded woman has ever won the title and only one unseeded man, Boris Becker, has done it. There have never been two unseeded men's finalists in the history of Wimbledon. . . . Besides contending with Henman, Martin can also ponder this: he is the 13th seed, and a 13th seed has never won Wimbledon. . . . The BBC showed much of yesterday's on-court revelry, then broadcast what appeared to be a highlight reel of John McEnroe's Wimbledon temper tantrums. Plenty of programming there.

Pub Date: 7/04/96

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